If the current application for an agricultural project at Twin Lakes goes ahead, it will be in breach of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation’s (LSCFN) final agreement.
That’s what LSCFN asserts in a 12-page document commenting on the project, currently before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Board (YESAB).
“Particularly in respect of conserving wildlife habitat, resources and ensuring respect for LSCFN traditional knowledge regarding traditional management and access to wildlife resources,” reads the comment, signed by Jillian Chown, manager of lands and resources for LSCFN.
Chown’s is one of more than a dozen comments from local residents, trapline concession-holders, the Carmacks Renewable Resources Council and various levels of government, including the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Yukon government.
The project, proposed in February by Jesse and Kimberley Walchuk of Whitehorse, would include an 80-acre oat farm on a lot near Twin Lakes, 42 kilometres south of Carmacks on the traditional territories of the LSCFN. Development (which includes upgrades to existing roads and cutting a new driveway) would take place over five years. The farm would produce oats annually and would be expected to be permanent. The proponents would potentially build a residence onsite. If power was required, it would be provided via a small solar installation.
The residence is one of the factors LSCFN cites in its opposition to the project.
“Conversion of open crown land to a fenced agriculture parcel with residence will remove most opportunities for training, hunting, trapping, medicinal plant and berry gathering from a large area of settlement and crown land for the foreseeable future,” says Chown’s comment.
It says the area around the proposed farm is a significant wildlife migration corridor between moose wintering and calving zones. Protecting such routes is fundamental to managing sustainable moose populations, the letter says, as well as the health of bears, birds, deer, elk and bison.
Negative impacts on these wildlife populations would have consequences for activities, including the Northern Tutchone Uncles’ and Aunties’ retreats. It takes place in the area and focuses on teaching nieces and nephews traditional stories, place names, hunting, trapping, harvesting and gathering techniques.
The letter says the only measure that may mitigate this is to relocate the farm.
The News contacted Jesse Walchuk, who works as a development officer in the agriculture branch at the department of Energy, Mines and Resources. He declined to comment. However, he did respond to an information request during the public comment period, asking if he had considered other locations.
In his response, Walchuk says he spent six years looking for an appropriate lot. During that time, he says he balanced factors such as soil quality, cost and topography with factors including the needs of other users, trail locations and heritage resources.
“The Twin Lakes area is the first location that has passed all of the necessary criteria and allowed us to navigate the process up until this point,” he said in his response on YESAB’s website.
Comments from the department of Tourism and Culture said there are no known archaeological or historic sites in the project area, but that undocumented sites may be present. Its recommendation was that a heritage resources impact assessment be completed.
The department of the Environment recommended a 60-metre buffer around the creek on the property to mitigate impact on wildlife.
The Village of Carmacks also logged a comment, saying it “stands in solidarity” with the First Nation.
Mayor Lee Bodie signed a letter saying the proposed farm will “go against the interests of our community while contributing little in return.”
“The proposed farm will produce hay for a Whitehorse-centric market, as there is no market for livestock feed in the Carmacks area,” said Bodie’s letter. It said the lack of ongoing labour required to run the farm means it also won’t provide local employment. As well, its location along the known moose migration corridor means it will impact hunting, an important food source for residents.
“This proposed farm will undermine local food security while contributing nothing to our socioeconomic needs.”
YESAB is preparing its recommendation until June 22.
Contact Amy Kenny at email@example.com